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I am still waiting for the Senate at Carleton University to grant me my B.Sc. Honours in Theoretical Physics (it usually happens at the end of May from what I understand), but I have gone ahead and applied for admission into the B.A. Honours Women's and Gender Studies programme, which should take about 2 weeks and will apparently be in time for the summer semester even though it has begun (I visited the Admissions Office this morning and that's their story and they're sticking to it). As soon as I'm accepted, I will apply to graduate in the fall as I have already completed all the requirements (to my knowledge). I am a broken man on a Halifax pier (and it has been more than 6 years since I sailed away), but it is a consolation that I survived (last year, there was some serious uncertainty) and the amount of time I spent in total is reflected in the multiple results (not my intent at all when I started, fyi).

I am now starting on life number eight (humans get about eleven, unlike cats, phew), at least per one of my favourite comics of all time, from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (there is much more to it than I repeat here to illustrate the points, so it's worth checking out):

http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2722
Here is something true: one day you will be dead.
Here is something false: you only live once.
It takes about 7 years to master something.
If you live to be 88, after age 11, you have 11 opportunities to be great at something.
These are your lifetimes.

Most people never let themselves die.
Some are afraid of death.
Some think they are already ghosts.
But you have many lives.

Spend a life writing poems.
Spend another building things.
Spend a life looking for facts,
and another looking for truth.

These are your lifetimes. Use them!
Which also reminds me of the final monologue in the movie Sucker Punch: https://youtu.be/s0tAif5OT1Q

And it also has a tinge to it of another comic that I have had pinned to the corkboard in my kitchen for years that I read at least once a week so I never forget (click on it to go to the page it is from):



I just found out that a very good friend had her visa application to teach in China approved last night and she will be leaving for over a year to do something that is utterly out of her comfort zone. She is a hero to me because she is starting a whole new life, and it is a beautiful and terrifying and magical thing to behold. And yes, I do plan to take her up on her offer to come visit her while she is there... I have never been to China.

Cuttlefish

Apr. 28th, 2017 11:08 am
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I get very emotional about cuttlefish.

Cuttlefish, like other cephalopods, have sophisticated eyes. The organogenesis and the final structure of the cephalopod eye fundamentally differ from those of vertebrates such as humans. Superficial similarities between cephalopod and vertebrate eyes are thought to be examples of convergent evolution. The cuttlefish pupil is a smoothly curving W-shape. Although cuttlefish cannot see color, they can perceive the polarization of light, which enhances their perception of contrast. They have two spots of concentrated sensor cells on their retina (known as foveae), one to look more forward, and one to look more backward. The eye changes focus by shifting the position of the entire lens with respect to the retina, instead of reshaping the lens as in mammals. Unlike the vertebrate eye, there is no blind spot, because the optic nerve is positioned behind the retina.

It has been speculated that cuttlefish's eyes are fully developed before birth, and that they start observing their surroundings while still in the egg.

Cephalopods are remarkable for how quickly and diversely they can communicate visually. To produce these signals, cephalopods can vary four types of communication element: chromatic (skin coloration), skin texture (e.g. rough or smooth), posture and locomotion. The common cuttlefish can display 34 chromatic, six textural, eight postural and six locomotor elements, whereas flamboyant cuttlefish use between 42 and 75 chromatic, seven textural, 14 postural, and seven locomotor elements.


While blogging is pretty spiff, and flapping my jaw and flailing my limbs seems to work okay, I am deeply humbled by our cuttlefish friends.

This post was brought to you by the song "Your Attitude Toward Cuttlefish" by the Winnipeg band Paper Moon, off the compilation album "For The Kids Two!" (which I was listening to while trying to learn a 3D solid modelling CAD program so I can do sketches for the projects I'm working on). I really do get emotional listening to that song, and it's one of my favourite pieces of music in the world for some reason (the reason actually eludes me... maybe it's the song... there is a rare innocence about it... maybe it's cuttlefish... if you ever lose me at an aquarium, just find the cuttlefish and I will probably be trying to interact with the denizens in the tank). I can't find a link to the song (Canadian indie music can be hard to find... sigh...), but I think it's on Spotify and other music services, none of which I have.

P.S. Cuttlefish = Aliens = Awesome! Right???
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I just had to open a new package of Nihon Rikagaku chalkboard chalk because I used up the previous package earlier today. I am at home. The professional grade chalkboard is in my bedroom. I am a colossal nerd.

40 hours until the exam that will decide whether I graduate or not. I am studying as fast as my writer's cramp will allow me to (I'm redoing all the problem sets as a study tool and correcting any mistakes I had made as I go). I'm on question 4 of 5 on problem set 3 (quantum perturbation theory) of 6. From problem set 1 to here has already been 26 pages of dense equations, and there's a similar amount to go. I hope to get done today (I figure there's a 50/50 chance), so I can go over my notes and the (shitty... Gasiorowicz 3rd. Ed.) textbook and flag important stuff tomorrow (it's an open book, open notes, open assignments exam... which means it's going to be hard, hard, hard).

Just in case you want to play the home game, here ya go: Quantum Mechanics on The Theoretical Minimum by Leonard Susskind. It's surprisingly easy to follow with a bit of high school math and an open mind (and maybe some alcohol so you're sitting in a Balmer Peak or some such... I've inflicted it on a mathphobic English major friend and they made it quite far).

And, while we're on the topic (nerds, not quantum mechanics)... this is lots of fun!

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I ordered a little 12VDC vacuum cleaner from AliExpress (stuff direct from China... if you haven't looked at the site yet beware, it can be addictive). I thought that maybe I could use it to suck chalk dust as it claimed to have a HEPA filter (it most assuredly does not... another lesson for AliExpress: buyer beware... some stuff has been wonderful, some total junk). I figured that worst case, when it arrived, I would use it for what it was for: cleaning the inside of my car. It does have a wonderfully long cord.

The reason for this post is the instructions sheet included with the vacuum. Oh, my. I have faithfully reproduced the text, including punctuation. The last note is perhaps the best, but it needs a proper build-up to truly appreciate. My comments are intersperced in italics...

USE INSTRUCTIONS

1. Please confirm access the switch have all;

illustration shows power plug being inserted into 12VDC receptacle in car

2. Difficult to clean it can be used to clean up his mouth;

illustration shows a tiny hand holding a tiny crevice tool (a Canadian "classic", fyi) next to a huge version of the vacuum

3. Clean up garbage bags please ensure that connection, the switch have;

the vacuum has a cup with a cheap filter glued into it to catch cruft... the illustration shows the button [not switch] to press to open the front and remove the "nose" and cup insert... oh, and there are no "bags"

4. Every time after using the front cover;

not sure what this illustration is telling me... there appears to be some sort of white splotch on a surface next to the nose "part" with the other bits of vacuum sitting next to it

MAINTENANCE

Please use a soft cloth lightly polishing machine, a thorough cleaning vacuum

a distant 1880s wash tub and modern dish soap bottle, a proximate vacuum being wiped by a hand holding, I guess, a cloth

WARNING

1. Avoid a direct the sun in the sun or a hot place to avoid being melted;

no illustration

2. Every time after its use should be thoroughly cleaned before. If a clear for a product will decrease power;

illustration shows vacuum rattling or vibrating with smoke coming out of it with a superimposed X... I presume it is about to blow up?

next, there is an illustration with no text that suggests to me that one should not open the vacuum while it's running... I'm not quite sure, it's very confusing

3. Do not use vacuum cleaner to suck cigarette butts, which may block the cleaner (vacuum cleaner) and even cause fire due to it's high temperature

I'm pretty sure they stole this piece of text from somewhere else... there is an illustration that kind of makes sense with the text with a lovely X through it

4. Do not use the vacuum cleaner

Wait... what?
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I found out something "interesting" Friday evening: my cat Crookshanks flies into a rage when I play bagpipe music on my turntable. She usually runs from the other two cats, but she went right up to both Bob (Bobba Ho-Tep, the feral Egyptian Mau) and and Snowball (the black and white loco gato) and clubbed them each in the face in turn before I shouted at her to stop. Bob especially was gobsmacked (if you'll pardon the pun) because Crookshanks never lets herself get within half a metre of him. She doesn't react the same way when I play it on CD. I don't know whether she is emboldened by the bagpipes (a battlefield instrument) or whether she is driven insane by it, but she started caterwauling as well. We have actually never been able to figure out whether her bleating (she doesn't meow) is a happy noise or an angry noise, so it was impossible to tell whether she was expressing displeasure or joining in with the music. Eventually she settled into the chair beside me and demanded neck scritches and started purring up a storm, but it still didn't clarify her position on the matter. It was a terrifying experience for all concerned ;).
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I’m not sure if I mentioned it a while back, but I had been searching for a chalkboard for years... a real chalkboard... heavy, porcelain, professional grade. It was certainly a fool’s errand to find something affordable (they kind of started at $600 and the cost of shipping implied they were warehoused on Neptune or some fucking thing). They were plainly out of reach financially for me, not to mention the difficulty in justifying such a purchase to myself. At one point a year or so ago, I went to the physics department admin and asked if they knew of a source of chalkboards. Their only suggestion was to talk to the facilities folks at the university because chalkboards are still used throughout the institution and probably need to be replaced from time to time (plus the university seems to be building new buildings all the time, so they have to outfit the classrooms and labs therein). I never got around to talking to them, but a couple of months after that conversation, the admin pinged me and asked me if I still wanted a chalkboard. The cost? Haul it away! Suweeeet! It turns out the post-docs sardined into a room together wanted to ditch it in favour of a whiteboard. Their loss (whiteboards are terrible things that are smelly and hard to maintain, and proceed from nice to suck over the course of a year or two in my experience). I checked it out and it was, in fact, a real (and startlingly heavy) one and I said I would certainly take it. Life does work like that for me on a regular basis, and I try not to depend on it, but part of how it works is just to recognize opportunity when it pops up and to take a chance on the outcome.

For over a year now, I have had a lovely 4’ × 4’ professional green chalkboard on the wall in my bedroom (I think there may be some pathology associated with such behaviour, heh). It’s a real pleasure to work with and I find it allows me to be very creative with my ideas (and not just for math or stuff... scribbling on a chalkboard helps me think and focus). When I brought it home (I had to get a friend with a pickup truck to help, it’s crazy heavy and way too big for most cars), I picked up a starter set of Prang chalk from the local office supply store and a standard felt eraser. Well, I was pretty underwhelmed with the feel of the Prang stuff and the felt eraser worked but left a lot of residue. I did some research on chalks and found that the ultimate chalk company, Hagoromo, had just folded after 80 years in business. One mathematician stated the following:
There have been rumors about a dream chalk, a chalk so powerful that mathematics practically writes itself; a chalk so amazing that no incorrect proof can be written using this chalk. I can finally say, after months of pursuit, that such a chalk indeed exists.
So that wasn’t going to work for me... at least not in the long run. More research and enter the Nihon Rikagaku company of Japan. I read several articles that stated they have a great product; but when I researched the company, I found that they were interesting in other ways as well. In particular, 70% of their employees have “intellectual disabilities” (about half of which have severe impairments), and they have been employing people that were seriously marginalized in Japan for the past 57 years. There’s some interesting stuff on their web site on the topic, and I’d recommend it as reading if you’re into disability rights and such. So, I ordered a few packages of chalk to try them out and I can say that they are much nicer to use than the first box of chalk I brought home! They are also made with calcium carbonate (calcite limestome) rather than gypsum (calcium sulphate) which most modern chalks are made from, which gives it a nicer feel and makes the dust a little gentler if breathed in ;). The stuff was available from Amazon, but it did take a couple of months to travel across the ocean from Japan, so be patient if you want to go that route as well!

All well and good, of course, but I had this crappy eraser see... I mean it was okay, but... not great. Again, I did some research and ended up back at Nihon Rikagaku. They make a corduroy chalk brush that I know I’ve seen in manga that I have read (they are, apparently, a major brand in Japan... although I cannot attest to that having never been there). The shipping was just about the same and took two months to arrive, but it showed up a couple of days ago... and prompted this post today :). Compared to the felt eraser, the new one is a dream and leaves barely any residue on the chalkboard! What residue that remains is a lot finer and fainter than the best I’ve been able to do with the felt eraser.

So, chalkboard, chalk, and eraser... life is good right? If we are only looking at the experiential dimension of writing on walls, it is hard to imagine more joy than this (heh). But all is not well. Late in 2015 I became ill with some sort of crud. Turns out it was antibiotic resistant crud and it took until March of 2016 to get it under control (3 different antibiotics later). This did a lot of damage to my lungs and sinuses (mostly my sinuses, my lungs are mostly fine by now), and I am now extremely sensitive to many environmental factors that didn’t phase me in the slightest before then. One of my sensitivities? Yup. Chalk dust. So much so that I won’t be able to use the board in my room unless I set up some sort of dust filter/vacuum thing while I use it or wear a mask or some ridiculous thing. Argh. I may also move it to the basement if I ever get that sorted out, but it’s definitely a bit of a bummer. Another “environmental sensitivity” I developed? Coffee. I cannot drink coffee anymore as it causes near instant inflamation of my sinuses (it does not cause breathing problems with my lungs, but it can affect my hearing). Piss. Me. Off. But, I did survive... and I have an allergist appointment in March to see what we can figure out. I’m seeing a good ear, nose, and throat specialist as well (yay Canadian healthcare!) and think the whole fiasco is behind me (new sensitivities notwithstanding). I have only been using the chalkboard infrequently, but I am going to need to use it a lot over the next couple of months while I finish up my undergraduate degree(s) (freakin’ finally!). This obviously presents a challenge, but at least I have some idea of what I'm up against.

And I leave you with a followup dance performance by “The Agents”... I’ve watched it dozens of times since it came out and my mind is still blown every time!

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A friend came in from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territories and we got together for New Year’s Eve. They very generously ordered some Chinese food (well, Canadian-Chinese, but...) for dinner and, after we waited the hour and a half before we could go pick it up, had a wonderful meal followed by fortune cookies all around. We all decided before opening them that it would be our fortunes for the new year. Mine?

“Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

Given the general theme of my existence, this does not bode well. O_o

p.s. If it makes any difference, the lucky numbers on the fortune were 1, 17, 23, 35, 41, and 47.
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Almost two years ago, I posted that I had ordered a model 7Ci tablet from Datawind in Canada (aka UbiSlate, aka Aakash) as part of an experiment to see if such insanely low cost products were any good at all, and where/how they might be used. I posted about ordering an UbiSlate 7Ci $37.99 Canadian tablet (I gave specs for it, and specs for both the the $79.99 Canadian UbiSlate 7C+ EDGE device and the $129.99 Canadian UbiSlate 3G7 full 3G phablet) here, back in the summer of 2014. I posted about receiving the 7Ci in this post, and promised I would write a proper review. The fact that I'm just getting around to doing so says a considerable amount about the state of my existence since then. What the older posts don't say, is that after I played around with the 7Ci, I purchased a second one and gave one to each Happy and Beep, and ordered myself a 3G7 to try out (the promise of 3G data access for such a low hardware cost was quite attractive). Based on my experiences with the 3G7, a friend also ordered one for themselves; and I ordered another 7Ci as a gift for another friend.

Below, the 7Ci (in its $15 keyboard/case) that it all started with...



If you go to the links for each of the products above, a few things have definitely changed. First and foremost, the cost (in Canadian dollars) has gone up for the 7Ci (now $47.99, still crazy inexpensive); and down for the 7C+ (now $62.99) and the 3G7 (now $99.99). A few other subtleties are in the specs that were not there two years ago: specifically, the 7Ci now says it comes with a mini-HDMI port (the ones I ordered definitely did not have that), and the 3G7 says it has "Wireless Headset Support" (presumably they added a Bluetooth compatible wireless interface... it costs tens of thousands of dollars and up to use the word "Bluetooth" since it is an industry trademark). They have also (since I last checked a couple of months ago) added two new products, the UbiSlate NS-7 ($149.99 Canadian) and the UbiSlate NS-10 ($175.99 Canadian). The NS-7 supports 3G wireless and the NS-10 just has wi-fi, but both are definitely "beefed up" machines. Specifically, they have 2GB of RAM (vs. 512MB on the older units) and 16GB of Flash (vs. 4GB on the older units). The 7" NS-7 has higher resolution (1280x800) than the 7" 3G7 (which has higher resolution than the 7Ci) and the 10" NS-10 has 2048x1536 resolution. Both have Bluetooth™ and GPS support (which is pretty funkadelic). The NS-7 has an octal core 1.5GHz CPU and says it supports HD video playback (which the 3G7 also says it does, but the 7Ci does not say it does); and the NS-10 has a quad core 1.6GHz CPU and does not say it supports HD video playback (which is odd to me, but since the 7Ci does a perfect job of displaying HD video, I have no reason to expect anything different from this device). Near as I can tell, the NS-7 is an amped-up 3G7 class machine and the NS-10 is an amped-up 7Ci class machine. [Not to be confused with NS-13, which is an entirely different thing in the Kingdom of Loathing game, heh]

So... the verdict? Well, as is evident from having sent a lot of business their way, I thought the devices were well worth their cost, and then some. I did mumble a little bit in the post I made after getting the first 7Ci about the case feeling a little rough around the edges (literally... again, not enough to injure or anything, just unrefined) and that was the case (pardon the pun) with all the '7Ci's I ordered. The 3G7 case was a different story and was smooth all the way around, and had a much more sophisticated feel to it. Both the 7Ci and the 3G7 have gorgeous displays and can play HD videos (720p or even 1080p [obviously scaled by the tablet to fit]) flawlessly both from files stored on local or expanded Flash memory (I got 32GB micro SD Flash Cards for all, they worked like a charm), or streaming via wi-fi from my fileserver (yes, I have a fileserver in my house) or the Internet. The touch screens have always worked really well, and the audio quality over a set of headphones is excellent (I've used both ear buds of several sorts, and a set of professional monitor headphones even). The audio out of the little monophonic speaker on the back is not so good... it's functional if needed, and is loud enough to hear kind of okay, and doesn't sound terrible, but it is directed away from the screen and if I use it, I find I need to cup my hand to direct the sound back at my head, or use some sort of flat surface to reflect the sound back at me. Not a good design decision there, but by no means a deal breaker (that the headphone audio sounds good is quite enough for me, I've had a lot of computer systems that had shitty audio no matter what I tried).

If I had to say what I thought was the UbiSlate's top feature, it would have to be the displays, and I have heard similar comments from the others I know who have used them. On the other hand, if I had to pick one think about them that was a failure, it would have to be the amount of RAM: 512MB is just not enough to run a lot of modern applications (e.g. Terra Battle just dies a horrible memory-starved death after a certain level), including (in too many cases) accessing some web sites with a web browser (e.g. media-rich sites with lots of JavaScript cause Chrome ands its ilk to just bail out trying). This RAM size restriction alone seriously limits what sort of things can be done with these devices, but if you can live within those bounds, the things it does well, it does very well. As a side note, I actually went out and found information on the type of CPU they use (not an easy task, fyi) and found out that the 512MB limit is a hard limit on the chip itself, not a design/marketing decision by Datawind (I had hoped to expand the memory myself to 1GB at least, but learned it would be utterly useless since the CPU wouldn't be able to access it... so no "hacker" points on that one).

I have a few more short (negative) notes on the hardware itself before moving on. Besides the issue with the speaker placement, one other industrial design issue came up: on the 3G7 I have, it is not possible to plug in both the mini-USB connector (for the external keyboard, for instance) and the external power supply adapter... the ports are just too close to each other for it to work. This is a huge deal for one of the uses I wanted to put the tablet to: taking notes at school. The battery only lasts less than 3 hours on my 3G7 with wireless enabled, which is not enough to make it useful in that context... I had initially planned to plug in while in class and typing on the keyboard, but that was not possible. The keyboard itself is usable to type on (I'm used to typing on a little Acer netbook computer, so the key size isn't unsurmountable), but I found that if I left it plugged in to the mini-USB port, it would drain the battery of the UbiSlate even when the tablet was off. Another issue I had regarding power was that if the battery was near dead and I did plug in the USB or external power supply to charge it, the unit would still run out of juice and shut down. Whut? Yup. Apparently the power/charging circuit was not designed properly to both fully power the unit and charge the battery. Definitely a problem, but it has not been an issue too many times (once I knew the problem existed)... if this was my only computing device, it would probably be a much bigger deal. Another pure fail was the power adapter that came with my 3G7 (some of the '7Ci's came with external adapters, some didn't... I'm not quite sure why): the plug on the adapter broke after a few months. I stripped the wires down and tried to repair it, and it worked for a while, but died soon after. I pulled the plug completely apart and saw that it failed because of a weak mechanical connection between the wires and the plug tip that would be extremely difficult to repair myself (I could do it, but what a pain in the ass, and it would probably just break again because there was inadequate strain relief). Just shoddy construction or weak design, at least in the one I had (my friend's adapter is still going strong... I do know that I'm pretty hard on equipment at the best of times though). I just ordered a replacement from China for $10 Canadian, which is one of the things that prompted this post (Datawind Canada doesn't seem to offer it for ordering, a marketing flaw from my perspective). Lastly, and this is probably something more specific to my use of it, I have torn the mini-USB connector off the tablet's motherboard more than once! Again, because of the power issue and the relatively short battery life, and the broken external adapter, I had taken to using it while it was plugged in via the mini-USB port to make it last longer. It is a small surface-mount connector and apparently relatively delicate. It should have been anchored to the tablet's motherboard with strong solder connections through the printed circuit, but I apparently tore it loose from its moorings. A friend repaired it for me (he's a surface-mount assembly master-craftsperson), but it tore loose again. I fixed it myself this last time (just a couple of weeks ago), but am not going to use it while it's plugged in anymore (well, at least until I get my new external adapter, heh).

So... definitely a few issues, but the question then becomes: what is it good for? I have been using my 3G7 on a nearly constant basis (every couple of days at least, sometimes more) since I got it. Beep uses it at about the same frequency as I do. I should mention that both Beep and I have laptops and access to desktop computers in the house, so the UbiSlate tablets definitely have a place in our larger computing infrastructure (and before it sounds like anything too classy, much of said "infrastructure" is beyond lagging-edge technology... some quite long in the tooth, and much of it salvaged and repurposed... but it does the job I keep it around for). Beep says she uses her tablet to watch YouTube videos mostly (she follows quite a number of Let's Players and other YouTubers), but does read online comics and stuff as well... so mostly Internet type stuff when the laptop is too bulky (again, the display and headphone audio is superb, and so is the wi-fi, so it's great for that). I use it to watch videos as well (music videos, and the videos from online courses like Coursera or edX, for instance), but most of the time I spend on it is to read PDFs for classes. One thing that works great is to set it up to my left on my desk and use it to read articles for class while typing notes on the desktop computer in my room (kind of a poor-man's dual-monitor sort of thing). I definitely do some web surfing (it mostly works most of the time), and sometimes watch YouTube videos (with the Android app, it's not so good with web browsing to them), I used it to play online games while I was sick for much of this year (e.g. Kingdom of Loathing... link above... it even runs X-Plane for Android without any lag or anything). I've also used it to read books and such. The friend I gave the 7Ci to used it for a long time to carry technical documentation around with him into areas that didn't have computer access or wi-fi, but he still uses it from time to time. He is going in for surgery soon, and plans to bring the tablet in with him to watch YouTube videos while he recovers, and maybe read some online books. On the flip side, Happy never really latched onto using a tablet... she either uses her laptop or a desktop computer, or more recently, her smartphone (a data plan is a very recent addition to her life, so that wasn't the reason). Furthermore, the friend who also bought a 3G7 loaded it up with applications and quickly brought it to its knees with a plethora of network-attached apps all running at once (their main previous experience had been with iPhones, which is definitely a different kettle of fish). I helped bring it back under control, but she continues to find it hard to use and, as such, has shied away from it. I am thinking it has something to do with Android and some of the DIY flavour of those class of devices (at least when they're not ultra-integrated from a top-tier systems provider, e.g. LG or Samsung), since she seems to have many of the same complaints with the behaviours of Android phones. She also seems to favour the use of her laptop, and TV type watching using a desktop system in her living room, but most of everything she does from a computing and networking (e.g. email, apps, etc.) is through her smartphone. In both cases, it's hard to point at specific shortcomings of the UbiSlate devices, and it seems to fall more into a personal style sort of thing.

All the UbiSlate devices have Google Play on them, so you can get any app they have. I get a lot of mileage out of Acrobat Reader, the YouTube app, ConnectBot (an SSH client), RealCalc (a powerful calculator program), and an amazing program called ES File Explorer (which I use all the time). An aside on ES File Explorer, it allows me to connect my tablet to my Linux fileserver using Samba and can also, of course, access my local files on the tablet's Flash storage. It has a built-in music player and will launch the appropriate application to handle any other files (e.g. PDF or MP4, for instance). It also allows for automated connection to cloud servers, but I don't use that particular feature. Anyway, amazing integrated, easy-to-use program! On the minus side of things, the 3G7 ran the first 20 or so levels of Terra Battle (a very fun and engaging game from Japan), but it ran out of needed RAM to load levels after that... and I have not been able to continue playing :(. I have been able to play Kingdom of Loathing (a game I've been playing for nearly six years) in a web browser on it with no issues. Another note: the built-in web browser is too ancient to be of any use anymore, and you need to install Firefox or Chrome or something (I ran Pale Moon on it until they announced they were not supporting some of the systems I run anymore, so I stopped using it everywhere). One of the big discoveries/surprises is that it came with Kingsoft Office (aka WPS) loaded onto it. I have to admit to being shocked at how amazing this office suite was on a mobile device. Firstly, it really is tailored for use on mobile devices, you can integrate document storage and/or backup with the cloud storage provider of your choice (e.g. Dropbox, but Google Drive and others are also supported), and it does provide an all-in-one office suite on the go (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, a PDF viewer/editor [!], a file manager, email integration, etc. ... wow). There is a desktop verson of it available as well and, although I haven't tried it myself, the mobile and desktop versions are supposed to integrate seamlessly through the cloud storage feature (allowing one to move between devices as the need or desire arises). Anyway, something worth checking out in general (I use LibreOffice for my desktop needs... it integrates with the Zotero citation manager, which is critical to me at this phase of my existence). A warning about the UbiSlate's software complement: it comes with their own patented web browswer that uses remote servers to actually render the page and then serve it up to the device. Near as I can tell, this is to allow them to insert their own advertising streams into content from other web sites now, but I understand that the original idea was to be able to use powerful servers to render pages for under-powered but insanely cheap tablets that were being (almost) given away in Asia to university students that needed them. It was a good idea, but it doesn't work with modern dynamic and interactive web content... avoid this program! The UbiSlates also came loaded with all manner of adware and bloatware (and cheezy educational software) that would probably be worth your while to delete the hell out of. I have seen some little adverts on the platform even after my rigorous cleaning, but only when I've paused a video or something, which is perfectly acceptable to me (I think I've even maybe clicked on one, it was interesting enough, heh). All the little adverts have been appropriate for all ages so far, which is also a plus (I've read some reviews that excoriated the UbiSlates for adware, but that has not been my experience). Anyway, there's a lot of very popular apps that are way, way, way worse than anything I've seen on my tablet ;).

And then to explore one last feature... amongst the main reasons why I got the 3G7 was to explore the use of 3G data from a tablet platform. It wasn't until late last year that I finally got around to sorting through that. I have a smartphone with data, etc. and went in to inquire about what it would take to get my tablet added to my plan. Well, they had a plan for $5 a month, but that only included 10MB of data... enough to do a bit of email or use an SSH client as needed, but an amount that would quickly run out. It turns out that I had another need that came up since I got the 3G7, and that was to have access to SMS messaging (text messaging) rather than any data or calling ability. When I went to the kiosk in the mall (I'm with Virgin Mobile Canada), they told me that there was no way to get my tablet added with free texting (I would have to pay something like $0.10 a message, yikes!). I called up their customer support line and talked to someone there... they had to do some research and ask around, but they were able to offer me an unlimited text messaging add-on to the 10MB tablet data plan for $10 a month. Suweeet! There was a little bit of awkwardness at the kiosk when I went back to get a SIM (they tried the wrong sized card and it got jammed, but I was able to pull apart the tablet and get it out so the correct one could be put in... no damage done, fyi), and after a bit of back and forth with headquarters, they got the data and text plan up and running for me. I'm going to be moving the SIM to a custom Arduino-based system I'm working on and will be using it for more experimentation, but I did want to report that my 3G7 works like a charm with 3G and a well-known cell phone service provider in Canada.

To close, overall I would call my purchases of the UbiSlates a great success, and despite the several issues I talked about, they are very capable devices for their price. In fact, the lack of RAM was the only issue that proved truly limiting, but it certainly did not render them useless by any stretch of the imagination. If you're looking to get a tablet to do the sorts of things I said it's good at doing, any of the 7Ci/7C+/3G7 devices would be adequate. If you're looking for an inexpensive device to watch videos on or read PDFs or digital books, then it's hard to compete with for the cost! On the other hand, if you're looking for a more capable system, but still at a bargain basement price, you might want to consider the NS-7 or NS-10 depending on whether you need 3G connectivity or not (or whether you want the bigger screen or not). I must say that I'm eyeing the NS-7 as a possible step up from the 3G7 as it addresses the only real concern (the amount of RAM) I had with the earlier devices, but isn't going to cost $600 like an iPad. If you're uncomfortable wrangling Android smartphones into a state that works for you or are leary about deleting and installing apps and configuring them to your needs, then perhaps an iDevice from Apple is more your speed (if you have the $$$$$$) or something in a highly integrated Android device from a major smartphone/tablet vendor (if you have the $$$). For me, a little $ and a bit of effort paid off bigtime, but your mileage may vary ;).

Hmmm... what to use as a reward for reading this far (or at least putting the effort in to scroll down, heh)? How about something that will blow your freakin' mind!? This is a dance performance, but it's like nothing I've seen before (okay, I've seen bits and pieces, but put together like this, uh uh). If you liked The Matrix, you'll particularly enjoy this one. Wow. Just wow!

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A few updates...

I have been extremely ill (chest infection moving into my sinuses and ears... antibiotic resistant, probably a little closer to dying that I would like, vast swaths of the past few months are a barely remembered hazy blur... I'm mostly deaf at the moment, but the doctors say it will eventually clear up and that there's no nerve damage or problems with the basic functioning of my ear apparatus, just gunk that's preventing me from hearing... hopefully will get an appointment with an ENT specialist in the next week), although I have apparently maintained basic functionality somehow (and more mysteriously, an A average in school), but have really fallen flat on my face in other areas (like my physics research and house-related stuff, although the latter is still not too bad, just behind). Other than that...

Our Kickstarter failed, so the plan is to just bring Midnight Stranger out as a "hand cobbled" thing, but it will give us the code we need to do more productions or start working on more generic tools.

You can listen to a radio interview with me and Jeff on CBC Radio One (I did pretty well considering I was nearly deaf and barely coherent... good thing we each had our own individual headphone volume controls!): http://www.cbc.ca/player/AudioMobile/All+in+a+Day/ID/2685006477/

There's a nifty (if cursory) article on the CBC News website here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/return-midnight-stranger-1.3483812

I engineered my first ever live streaming event on YouTube (with Jeff Green playing Midnight Stranger). It was fun, I think I will do more (I bought a year-long software license, so it's entirely possible), but maybe more along the lines of solving physics problems ... I can already hear people running away with great vigour ;).

I also did two solo radio interviews on CKCU:

"Wednesday Special Blend" (Feb. 24, 2016): [jump to 71:37 for the segment] http://cod.ckcufm.com/programs/82/26069.html

"Thursday Morning Special Blend" (Mar. 3, 2016): [jump to 45:50 for the segment] http://cod.ckcufm.com/programs/100/26176.html

(you can, of course, listen to me until your ears drool out your brain... or is it visa versa? on my feminism/science/music show "The Passionate Friar", every Wednesday morning or "on demand" anytime: http://cod.ckcufm.com/programs/371/info.html)

Finally, I am going to be a properly published physicist larva, err physicist. On May 1, 2016 in Volume 817 of Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A (NIMA), pages 85–92: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168900216001285

Now, to go back to bed for a while... O_o

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I am sorting through some old boxes of mementos, keepsakes, portfolio stuff, and odds and ends ... wow, talk about a trip down memory lane. I have kept bits and pieces from everything I've done since I was a least a teen going into high school. I am writing this because of one little piece of paper I found (because I could fill volumes of books just documenting everything else in those boxes) — or rather, a business card. This particular card is for one Dr. R.G. Barradas, Professor of Chemistry, Carleton University. What is special about this card is, as I remember it, I had gone to some sort of open house at Carleton when I was in early high school. I got to look at all manner of stuff and try out all manner of equipment and little experiments (including time on a timeshare "minicomputer" through a teletype terminal playing the original Adventure game). One of the places I visited was the chemistry laboratories where they had lasers and all kinds of other really, really cool stuff (especially as a teenager in the late 70s, but it'd be cool even now). In one particular lab, and I don't know how this happened, I felt invited to drop in... and did. Yes, I would skip high school and take my bike to Carleton University (from Bell's Corner's, quite the haul) and hang out in a chemistry lab. In particular, and thus the card, in the lab of Dr. R.G. Barradas. I remember green lasers and lots of equipment and vials of some uranium compound. He would let me help out with little jobs around the lab and I got some "hands on" experience there with him. I was there when he made a discovery that the particular compound he was testing fluoresced when subjected to a particular kind of laser light. He had predicted it, but it had never been observed before. It was thrilling to be there. To this day, I credit Dr. Barradas with a more mature love of science (a more practical appreciation, rather than any romantic notions I might have had from only reading books... a condition, I should emphasize, did not diminish the magic in the slightest, it only made it more tangible and keen), and I have often thought about him. Sadly, I had forgotten his name until I found this card of his that I had kept. I did an online search for him and, while it's not like he never existed, there is nothing but a historic footprint and no indication of what happened to him. Is he still alive (unlikely as I remembered him being fairly old even at the time, but then I was just a kid, so old is relative, heh)? I could neither find any trace of his passing. What I did see was he published from the 1960s through to 1995 and that's where the trail goes cold. If he retired then, even if he retired young, that was 20 years ago now, so if he's still alive he would be at least in in 70s (or more likely 80s). I don't necessarily want to track him down, but I think I will make an inquiry of the chemistry department at Carleton as to whether they know what happened to him... at least one current professor is listed as a joint author on one of Dr. Barradas' papers, so someone should know something. As I stated, the generosity he showed with his time for the young (inexperienced but enthusiastic) time-sink that I was was profoundly influential on the course my life has taken and many of my attitudes about how to approach things.

Edit: When I dug down to the bottom of the box I found stuff from when I was in elementary school. What a bizarre life I have led.
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I am folding my laundry, eating a marshmallow treat, and watching a video of the latest SpaceX launch. A successful booster landing finally... heady stuff... space is getting nearer every day!!! Blue Origin did a successful booster landing a couple of weeks back and that really set the tone (and pressure) for SpaceX to perform on this one (it's not often someone eats Musk's lunch, heh). The main difference is that Blue Origin is a suborbital vehicle, whereas SpaceX's platform is fully orbital... very different beasts. Both are very exciting for very different reasons. Once my laundry is away, I am going to start working on the final stages of the Kickstarter I'm working on with Jeff Green (if you private message me, I will send you a preview link). I finished my last school work for the term on Saturday (an essay on Quebec writer Élisabeth Vonarburg's amazing utopian novel "Chroniques du Pays des Mères"... and as a side note, I will always have a special fondness for her as she took the time to teach me to play Simon & Garfunkel songs on guitar one late night many years ago), did our family's Yule dinner on Sunday, ran around like a maniac most of today on errands for other people, and came home and collapsed into sleep shortly thereafter (woke up a little after midnight and started all of the above). It has been an extremely difficult and painful (and probably dangerous, I got really, really sick) semester, but I finished all my classes and think I did well in a couple of them (I went in to my math exam with a 91% but will be lucky to get a B in the course, I did not do very well on the exam... we shall see). One of the courses I took was to get a better mark in my physics degree, one (the 4th year laboratory session) was toward my physics degree (I just have 3 courses left now, but it's going to take me a year and a half because they are only offered sequentially, sigh, and double sigh), and the last was a women's and gender studies course (cross listed with English... and it turned out to be more of an English course than I was prepared for). The course was given by the president of the university (!!!) and because of her position, she was able to invite a number of truly amazing people that came in and talked to the small group that we were (including Her Excellency Sharon Johnston, historical novel author and Viceregal Consort of the Governor General of Canada... a raucous and utterly engaging speaker; and <mind officially blown> doctor, astronaut, photographer, scientist, and writer Roberta Bondar, one of my few and true living heroes!!! ... and yes, I got her to sign a copy of her out-of-print book of stunning photography for me, "Passionate Vision").

Anyway, here's a link to the SpaceX launch... and booster landing... zomg!

pheloniusfriar: (Default)
Comfort does not breed creativity.

— Chrissie Hynde

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In celebration of our 40th anniversary, the fine folks at the Magic of Pain Tattoo Studio on Somerset St. West (Ottawa, Ontario) have offered to adorn the skin of anyone who would like their own inked version of the traditional CKCU FM logo. From now until the end of December, come by the shop and show the world just how much you love CKCU FM by putting our logo right there on your body. FREE OF CHARGE!!! That's right, FREE!

Magic of Pain
646 Somerset Street West
(613) 501-5149
To book an appointment and learn more about the shop and our work, check us out on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Magic-of-Pain-229203873816257/

Size is limited to one per customer and to 2 inches in diameter in black.



As always, check out my radio show any time (24/7) "on demand" (Doing It On The Cheap f. The Dollar Bin):

http://cod.ckcufm.com/programs/371/info.html
pheloniusfriar: (Default)
I remain horrifically swamped by school work and am weeks behind in everything I'm doing. I'm also renovating the kitchen here (painting, etc.) on top of everything else (I started the job before things kind of blew up on me). I've also been sick for a month but hopefully I'm turning the corner with that (started antibiotics a couple of days ago and am seeing some improvement already... don't want to get pneumonia like I apparently did last year from being so overworked (not planning a Jim Henson ending to my tale)). Mostly I'm posting to share another Michel Gondry video that showcases what an art form (and storytelling medium) music videos can be. I consider this to be one of the best ever made (positively sublime).

pheloniusfriar: (Default)
There is going to be a memorial service for Ivy (Jennifer) Alexander on Sunday, November 8th, 2015 from 2:30PM to 6:00PM at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, 30 Cleary Avenue, in Ottawa. Ivy died from cancer with almost no warning on October 4th, 2015 at the age of 45. Former wife, mother to our children, and my occasional nemesis, we also had a lot of good years together and those good memories were never and will never be cast aside. A formal ceremony will be conducted by longtime family friend Síân Reid at 3:00PM in the Worship Hall, followed by a reception in the adjoining Fellowship Hall. There will be a potluck afterward in the Fellowship Hall, please bring something to share.

Fyi, Cleary Avenue and the church is just east of Woodroffe Avenue off of Richmond Road, a link to a map is below.

http://www.firstunitarianottawa.ca/contact-us.html

There is an obituary in The Ottawa Citizen if you want to make public remembrances:

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/ottawacitizen/obituary.aspx?n=jennifer-jean-alexander-ivy&pid=176290514

She was always a big fan of Depeche Mode (at least when we were together, and Duran Duran for that matter, heh)...



Ah, what the hell...

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Ivy Alexander (née Jennifer), mother of my daughters Morgan (22) and Laura (19), passed away in her sleep this morning around 5:30AM (Eastern time) after it was discovered a little over a week ago that she had cancer. She was 45 years old. Both of them managed to get there and visit with her yesterday before she died. As with so many of these situations, she seems to have held on until she could see them one last time. Both are doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances. To anyone that knew her, my condolences, and I wanted to let you know that there will be a memorial service for her here in Ottawa in early November (hopefully the Sunday after The Feast of the Hare as many who knew her will be in town already that weekend, but this is a plan in progress). If you would like to be notified about it, please drop me a private message with your email address and I will make sure you are told when and where it will be. May she rest in peace.

Blessed be.
pheloniusfriar: (Default)
Well, I am turning fifty years old today and I don't feel a day over 137! I have 3 courses left to take to finish my honours degree in feminist studies (seriously, whut?), but a year and a half to finish my honours degree in theoretical physics (I'll have both done in parallel and I continue to work as a Research Associate on the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider). My two adult children are doing amazingly well (plus or minus a bit, but I'm more amazed every day). I don't seem to be slowing down all that much (although afternoon naps are seeming more and more like a Good Thing™ ... not that I ever get them though). Here's a picture of me earlier this year 2km below the surface of the Earth near Sudbury, Ontario just having come out of the SNOLAB facility there and preparing to ride back to the surface with the nickel miners (a trip that only takes 3 minutes at the speeds the elevator travels at... yikes!). The inset photo was us heading back up the mine tunnel that leads from SNOLAB to the main part of the mine (where I could no longer take photographs).



Before we left Sudbury, I got to visit Science North, where I took this picture (and others).



I'm also working with an artist friend on a startup (I'm the HTML5/Javascript gearhead), but there will more news (and a Kickstarter) soon!
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Alerts for: City of Ottawa
Warnings

3:17 PM EDT Sunday 06 September 2015
Heat Warning in effect for:

Ottawa North - Kanata - Orléans
Ottawa South - Richmond - Metcalfe

Daytime high temperatures in the low thirties, with humidex values near forty, are forecast again for Monday. Additionally, overnight low temperatures tonight and Monday night are only expected to fall to near twenty.

The very warm and humid conditions may persist into Tuesday for some regions.

What's wrong with this picture?

Hint: It's frickin' September in Ottawa, Canada... this is insane!

P.S. To any non-metric people out there, 40°C is 104°F... wtf?

P.P.S. I apparently did relatively poorly on my final exam (relative to may midterm exams which were all solidly in the A range) as I only got a B- in my differential equations course; however, it was the last credit I needed to get a minor in mathematics and anything in the B range is good enough for me. Sadly, the final exams in the math department at Carleton are all at least 50% of your mark (it was 55% in this particular course), so it's an all or nothing thing with respect to your final grade. No matter how much work you do during the semester, you will be primarily remembered for how you did over 3 hours in a room designed to emulate being stranded on an isolated island where you are required to perform the solving of differential equations without any contact with the outside world. But that's just my opinion. Anyway, I'm sufficiently happy with my B- :).

Aanii

Aug. 29th, 2015 12:27 pm
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Two brief updates... or how I spent my summer "vacation"...

I got an A+ in the Eastern Ojibwe language course I took over the summer (I am still waiting on my math mark though). It really is true that you can learn so much about a culture simply by learning their language, and this was no exception. I definitely had a good time even though I was extremely intimidated by the process throughout. So, chi-miigwech Prof. Jean!

I also just got back from Toronto earlier this week and successfully got Carleton's Atlys card (with the VMOD-IB we got from England) to talk to the UofT's petalet sensor module (a full petalet with several modules, from when I was at DESY in Hamburg, Germany, is pictured below). These silicon strip particle detectors (with their readout ASICs) are the current frontrunner for part of the replacement inner tracker system of the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (due to be replaced in the Phase II upgrade program in 2025). This means that Carleton now has the capability to be a test site for the modules that will be assembled in Canada (we can do quality assurance testing and/or even research on the performance of the modules in general). It has been a huge struggle to get to that point (the learning curve was more of an overhanging cliff), but I have lots of experience (prior to university, so I'm not necessarily learning new skills, just new applications, sigh...) doing that sort of thing.

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